“One That Got Away” from Vikings Does It Again

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The vote was among the narrowest in league history, and a former Minnesota Vikings coach has done it again.

“One That Got Away” from Vikings Does It Again

Kevin Stefanski won the NFL’s Coach of the Year award on Thursday night, edging Houston Texans first-year skipper DeMeco Ryans by a single first-place vote, making it two such trophies for Stefanski in the last four seasons.

One That Got Away
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted, “Browns HC Kevin Stefanski wins Coach of the Year. Kevin Stefanski is the 13th coach in history to win multiple Coach of the Year awards, joining Don Shula, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Chuck Knox, George Halas, Bruce Arians, Mike Ditka, Ron Rivera, Dan Reeves, George Allen, Joe Gibbs and Allie Sherman.”

Stefanski’s Browns reached the postseason with an 11-6 record while starting five different quarterbacks, evidently the special potion necessary to put the coach over the top. Heading into the event, many believed Ryans probably had the honor in the bag. No such luck.

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Cleveland hired Stefanski four years ago after he offensively coordinated the Vikings in 2019. Minnesota shocked the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs that season, the offense hummed, and Stefanski’s shine hit then-all-time high. Soon after, the Browns hired the young coordinator, and he’s taken a notoriously lousy franchise to the playoffs twice in four years.

At the awards show, the presenter, actor Justin Hartley, accidentally called Stefanski by the name of Steven Stefanski. So on Friday morning, Kevin Stefanski had a little fun with the blunder, telling 92.3 The Fan, “You know who had a great night last night was my cousin Steve Stefanski. We called my cousin Steve, and he answered the phone, and he said, ‘I did it.'”

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In the NFL’s orbit, there is no Steven Stefanski. Just Kevin.

Former NFL coach Jay Gruden wasn’t thrilled by the voting process, undercutting Stefanski in a tweet and chiding the decision-makers, “Stefanski received 21 first-place votes, 18 second-place votes and six third-place votes. Ryans received 20 first-place votes, 21 second-place votes and two third-place votes.
There were 50 voters. 7 didn’t put Ryans in top 3. 5 didn’t put Kevin in top 3. Fire the voters.”

Gruden has a 35-49-1 (.418) record as a head coach compared to Stefanski’s 37-30 (.552) mark.

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Since taking over the Browns in 2020, Cleveland has the league’s 11th-best record on Stefanski’s watch. The organization took some heat when it onboarded controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson in 2022, but that criticism mostly steered clear of Stefanski personally.

The Vikings will play the Browns again in 2025. Stefanski will turn 42 in May and remains one of the youngest coaches in the sport.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.